Doctor Who 6.12 Closing Time - James Corden and Matt Smith
Craig Owens (James Corden) and The Doctor (Matt Smith) on a hunt © BBC 2011

The predicted time of the Doctor’s death approaches and he re-visits old friends, including his one-time houseshare mate, Craig. But sinister forces are at work…

Back in 100AD, the Roman poet Juvenal used the phrase “Bread and circuses” in a satire, referring to how the populace only cared about their entertainment. This is how I feel about Doctor Who these days. This episode has certainly been a crowd-pleaser, full of comic moments, witty banter and references to the mythology and continuity of the series. But by themselves these do not make a story; there is no real substance.

Doctor Who 6.12 Closing Time - Matt Smith
The Cybermen give a thumbs-up, they have the Doctor (Matt Smith) © BBC 2011

So what was the story? It could have been about the Doctor meeting Craig, which was nice, but not very thrilling. It could have been about a buried Cybermen spaceship and the Cybermen trying to increase their numbers, but in that case it was pretty weak. Ultimately, the episode was mostly light (despite a death) and fluffy, with an incredibly quick resolution to the menace of the Cybermen. That was it – oh, part from setting up the next episode and drawing in some of the threads of the season as a whole, which weren’t part of the story.

Doctor Who 6.12 Closing Time - James Corden and Lynda Baron
One of the many fun encounters between Craig Owens (James Corden) and Val (Lynda Baron) © BBC 2011

It was not satisfactorily explained how this was “the day before the Doctor dies”. He’s a time traveller, so surely the date of the Doctor’s death is fixed, and he could arrive at that date at any time, so to speak? Evidently, this means that this week’s episode is some 200 years after the last episode (because at the start of the season the Doctor, who is killed, says he is 200 years older), but in that case why hasn’t he aged? The first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, was an old man, and he was 400 years old! Of course, the answer is that he had to look the same age to make some of the machinations of the season’s first episode work. A simple plot device.

Doctor Who 6.12 Closing Time - Matt Smith
The wacky Doctor (Matt Smith) © BBC 2011

And after 200 years wouldn’t this incarnation of the Doctor have matured a bit, calmed down? It seems that with all his knowledge he actually hasn’t learnt much.

Viewers giggled and squirmed with pleasure at the Doctor conversing with a baby. Cleverly written, yes, but clever? No. We really aren’t in Science Fiction any more – pure fantasy. In which case I suppose you can forgive the Doctor and his magic wand – sorry, sonic screwdriver – magically repairing broken lifts and disabling and re-enabling teleport devices.

A nice episode, a fun episode, but nothing more…


[Rating: 2.5]

Jan Vincent-Rudzki

UK editor of Film Review Online